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“Don’t Make Decisions Based on Ego”: A Year-Long, Cross-Country Motorcycle Journey

This is a traveler profile. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

For three years, Mallory Paige and her dog Baylor traveled the country in a cherry red VW van. Now, they travel a little lighter: by motorcycle (for Mallory) and sidecar (for Baylor) for a year-long project, Operation Moto Dog.

Here’s their story:

I have a vision of the adventurer I want to become. Part Laura Ingalls Wilder, part Jacques Cousteau, and a healthy dose of Shackleton. Resourceful, adventurous, capable. The type of person who goes deep into the wild with confidence, and comes out alive on the other side. Who has a varied skill set and a flexible paradigm. Who knows which tool is best for the job and how to make do when that tool’s not available.

I’m not there yet, but there’s always tomorrow.

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What am I capable of that I don’t know yet? What are my limits? Can I truly enjoy my own company for an entire year? Am I equal to everything traveling across North America on a motorcycle-sidecar will throw at me?

Will I love the adventure, with its long-term time frame, its relentless challenges, its constant call for vulnerability, ingenuity and growth? At age thirty-one I intend to find out.

Thinking it over, I realized these 4 main principles have helped me go from zero to adventure:

1. Kaizen for Life

When I first heard of kaizen from my friend Alexandra, I immediately fell in love. More than just being the Japanese word for “improvement,” kaizen is a practice of continual growth being used by athletes, scholars and regular folks around the world — and something I’d been doing for years without even realizing it. Kaizen is the very reason I commit to big goals.

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When I live in the framework of kaizen, it reminds me that moving on to the next thing — with thought and intention — is a good thing. The goal of life is not to become stagnant, but to appreciate that life is change. Even though change can be challenging, uncomfortable and stressful in the moment, ultimately it’s where the richest lessons and experiences lie.

2. Cultivate a Can-Do Community

During the months leading up to Operation Moto Dog, all of the riders and experts I spoke with told me my trip couldn’t be done. That I’d never be able to attach the sidecar to the motorcycle. That even if I did, I’d need to wait until I had several years riding experience before I left for Alaska.

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These people truly meant well, and I know they thought they were giving me their best advice, but they’re not part of my can-do community. In contrast, can-doers are the group of people who actively helped me solve problems and work towards my dreams. They are realistic and know my aspirations won’t be easy to fulfill, but they have faith that with handwork and determination, what I dream is doable.

When I run into people who are more you can’t than you can, I thank them for the advice and ignore them completely. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

3. Make Your Own Definition of Success

Defining success is such an important, and often overlooked, part of my adventures. Without setting this part up, I have no metric with which to judge the journey. For me, I’ve decided success is not about perfection or flawless execution; instead, success equals trying.

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No longer am I frozen by perfectionism. I just launch into action, and I’m already on the way to succeeding. It’s a freeing and exciting concept that has taken me from just thinking about an adventure to actively pursuing it.

4. Don’t Make Decisions Based on Ego

This principle changed my life. Whenever I find myself hesitating over a decision, I ask myself if it’s coming from a place of fear or ego. The choice can be as small as, am I checking Instagram again for a good reason or simply because of ego? Or it can be as big as, am I worried about moving ahead with this adventure not because it doesn’t align with who I am, but because I’m afraid of what people will think?

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Asking myself these questions allows me to take a step back, analyze my decisions with a bit of perspective, and commit to what I’m going to do with a newfound sense of peace.

Every day we have a choice: to look for the good. To see opportunities in obstacles. This seemingly little decision to take charge of my attitude changed the entire course of my life. I went from mourning the unexpected end of a relationship to touring the country in a vintage van, from having never left the USA to traveling solo across foreign lands, from zero motorcycle experience to driving across North America.

I don’t need to be fearless. I don’t need to have it all figured out. I just need to jump in and go for it. And if nothing else, I need to remember this: I have a choice.

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I’ve been on the road for more than 200 days. More than half a year. Less than .1% of my life.

A huge chunk.

A minuscule speck.

It just depends on the perspective with which you view it.

Follow Mallory and Baylor’s journey on her blog, Operation Moto Dog or on Instagram @mallorydangerpaige.

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